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Millennials: Planning for the Worst, While Expecting the Best

[vc_row][vc_column width=”5/6″][vc_column_text]Every year at the holidays, families gather around the table for re-connecting and renewing familial bonds. It isn’t long before Grandma wants to know why her grandson, Kevin, hasn’t “settled down” with that nice gal that he’s been seeing for close to two years now, and recounting the story of how she met Grandpa and married him within six months.

While Grandma may be jumping the gun on wedding bells (or maybe just itching for great-grandchildren), she is on to something: Millennials (those born after 1982) are waiting longer to get married, start families and put down roots. A 2014 Pew Research Center Survey found that just 26 percent of Millennials were married. However, just because Millennials aren’t marrying as young as their parents’ and grandparents’ generations don’t mean that Millennials aren’t cohabitating or having children. Rather, they are doing these things outside the conventional legal structure, which can create headaches and heartaches in the event of an untimely death or a sudden falling out, both for the surviving family members as well as the surviving Millennial roommate or romantic partner.

In Illinois, funeral expenses are paid first and then any debts or obligations to creditors out of any funds in the decedent’s estate. After creditors and funeral expenses have been paid, unless a person dies married, in a civil union, or with an estate plan, the decedent’s property passes to the decedent’s family, typically to children, parents and siblings, regardless of the decedent’s wishes or plans. In order to pay for funeral expenses and pay any debts or creditor obligations, a Millennial has to have the funds available at his or her death to make those payments. Most Millennials don’t have significant savings or even a life insurance policy to cover their own burial. If Millennials don’t have enough funds at death to pay off their funeral expenses and creditor obligations, anyone who co-signed those obligations is responsible for paying them off.

It’s one thing, of course, as a parent to have co-signed with your Millennial for the purchase of a car or to help them get a credit card. It’s a whole different issue if your Millennial is the co-signor left holding the debt after tragedy takes their cohabitant or co-owner. Consider that depending on how the asset is titled, your Millennial may not even have possession of the asset![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]With many Millennials back home, now is a good time to talk about estate plans and about getting their affairs in order. After all, it isn’t just about grandma and her need for great-grandchildren; it’s about protecting and providing for those close to us. Consider raising the following points:

  1. Ensure that your Millennial has enough assets upon his or her death to cover their own funeral and burial expenses. Those funds could come from a life insurance policy, retirement assets, or savings.
  2. Ensure that your Millennial has powers of attorney and a will for when something unexpected happened. The will can be basic, but it should provide for the Millennial’s loved ones, including those with whom he or she may be cohabitating. Powers of Attorney can be useful if your Millennial is living far from home and his or her main banking relationship; a Power of Attorney for Property can be used for everyday transactions if designed to be effective immediately.
  3. If your Millennial has children, the Millennial’s recommendation for the child’s guardian should be made and incorporated into the Millennial’s will. It’s recommended that the Millennial name at least one back-up guardian in case the Millennial’s original choice is unavailable or unable to serve. If your Millennial is unmarried, child guardian plans should be discussed with the other parent and both sets of grandparents.
  4. Millennials should be cautious, especially those cohabitating or with children outside of marriage, when entering into leases, mortgages or significant purchases such as a car. If something bad happens to your Millennial’s partner or cohabitant, or if the parties simply drift apart, one party may find himself or herself on the hook for monthly payments and liabilities that he or she never intended to cover alone. If the asset isn’t titled in both parties’ names, the surviving partner can remain on the hook for the loan, despite having no right to the asset itself. Consider a Cohabitation Agreement that explains the rules and boundaries of the relationship, and double-check the fine print when signing joint loans or making big purchases.

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